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Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, listens to Deputy Defense Minister Dmitry Bulgakov, right, as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Gov. of Baikal region Konstantin Ilkovsky, background, observe military exercises near the Baikal Lake on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service, Pool)

Olympic committee pushes back on Putin’s anti-gay law

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who recently signed a bill cracking down on pro-gay propaganda, has drawn the ire of the International Olympic Committee ahead of the Russian-hosted 2014 Winter Games.

The new law allows the Russian government to arrest and detain gay or “pro-gay” foreigners for up to 14 days prior to their eventual expulsion from the country. Russian residents are subject to these fines and sentences as well.

“[We] would like to reiterate our long commitment to non-discriminate against those taking part in the Olympic Games,” The IOC told Gay Star News The IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the Games.”

“The Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” the IOC said in a statement.

All mentioned groups are presumed to be subject to arrest if caught publicly supporting or promoting homosexuality, even online.

The law has outraged the advocacy director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch Boris Dittrich.

“Human Rights Watch’s long-standing position is that there cannot be a successful Olympics where there is discrimination or human rights abuses,” Dittrich wrote in a letter International Olympic Committee director general Christophe De Kepper. “Foreigners — possibly including athletes — who violate the law, including possibly by speaking about their sexual orientation in public, run the risk of being fined, arrested for up to 15 days, and deported from Russia.”

A number of LBGT groups have suggested boycotting the 2014 Olympics due to the law and their concerns that the Russian government will give broad interpretation as to what is considered “gay propaganda.”

Other organizations are joining the push, including the RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking LGBT organization based in New York.

“LGBT people in Russia are scared, they live in fear, and we want people to be aware of the issue. If they feel strongly about human rights they should boycott the Olympics in Sochi,” said Nina Long, co-president of the organization in an interview with RIA Novosti, a state-run news outlet.

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